A big to-do is being made in the Canadian press about last night's victory for Jean Charest (that's the equivalent of John for you American readers) with words like "mandate" being tossed around and many reporters remarking the historic nature of a 3rd consecutive election win.
First of all, being elected a third time in the amount of time that one Premier would normally serve one term is nothing to be proud of. Mr. Charest, your elections have cost the province untold millions and have not made the province any richer or any better off. As far as winning a "mandate" do not forget Mr. Charest, that you won less than 45% of the popular vote and you squeezed into a majority by less than 10 seats.
The real losers in this campaign are the people of Quebec who once again were faced with no real choice. I'm sorry, that's not entirely true. If, for example, you are a right wing nut case and want to see everything that Quebeckers have fought for melt away so that a few corporations and some corrupt cronies can line their pockets in Quebec City, then you had quite a bit of choice in this election. You had the option of the Liberal Party of Quebec, whose name must confuse a lot of Americans, because they have been enacting all the conservative policies that warm Prime Minister Harper's cold black heart each night. You could have also voted for the Action Democratique de Quebec and championed the xenophobic policies of Mario Dumont. And if having those two options wasn't enough, you could have even voted for the Parti Quebecois whose policies have been increasingly conservative as more and more sovereigntists show their true colors and stop pretending that an independent Quebec would be a progressive Quebec.
Next, for those die-hard separatists on the left, there's Quebec Solidaire. A party that began as a worker's party and promised to improve the lives of the working class, but was sadly taken over by sovereigntists to become a poor man's Parti Quebecois. While their one seat victory in Mercier riding is encouraging for those struggling to make ends meet today, the fact that they jumped onto the independent Quebec has been like booking a last minute ticket on the Titanic or the Lusitania.
For the conservative separatists, as mentioned above, they have the PQ.
This leaves many Quebeckers out in the cold without a real choice in the election. Those of us who see the need for strong progressive policies but also a preference for staying with Canada have little options. Obviously, we could vote for the Green Party, but c'mon...seriously, we need a better option.
What is becoming more and more apparent is that that Parti Quebecois have learned from their unfortunate experiments in power and have realized that so long as there is "money and the ethnic vote" Quebec is not ready for sovereignty. Instead of working on behalf of Quebeckers to improve the province they would rather watch it burn and cry out that the only way to fix it is through breaking free of Canada. This is not a good argument. If you think you are prepared to run a country, then show it, but running a province. Take a referendum off the table for the first term and watch the votes flood in.
There are plenty of English speakers in Quebec who are the real victims of sovereignty politics because they vote for Charest and the LPQ out of fear. They do not want to be torn from Canada but they also don't like the policies of the Charest government. Unfortunately, until things get much worse, that fear of losing Canada works to both Charest's and Pauline Marois' advantage and against the good of the province.
The saddest thing about this election has been the timing. After such a momentous election south of the border, where change has taken root, for our election to be so static, and the issues before the voters so meaningless is truly depressing.
It is true, we are, or are headed for harsh economic times. Charest and the LPQ's plans to shove more Public Private Partnerships down Quebec's throat is only going to make matters worse. Marois and the PQ's chant of "sovereignty! sovereignty! sovereignty!" doesn't address the issues facing Quebeckers and detracts from any good policies they might have to offer. Quebec Solidaire and the Green Party are just too small for people to take a chance on and even if they would, Solidaire's stance on independence has lost it whatever support it might have found in progressive anglophones. This is a sad time for Quebec.
Congratulations Mr. Charest you won 3 elections in 4 years. Aren't your terms allowed to go for 5 years?